In a previous post I shared a few thoughts concerning our quiet time, or devotions. But once you’re regularly reading the Bible, it is important to make sure you really understand what you are reading. As with the previous article, this is just a primer and is designed as a starting place for children or young believers. Here a few basic helps.
How Did We Get the Bible?
Having a certain expectation and trust in what we read makes a big difference in what we understand and learn.
Inspiration—God gave men His words to write down. When we read the Bible we are reading God’s Words.
Preservation—God promised to make sure His Words would be kept safe for us to read. Logially, what would be the use in giving His message if it was not kept pure and available for all generations?
Translation—The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic (just a little), and Greek. Translation is when those words are brought into English or another language.
How Can I Understand the Bible?
Everyone uses something called a hermeneutic. A hermeneutic is a system for interpreting the Bible. I believe in applying the literal, grammatical, historical/contextual hermeneutic. These three words can help us understand and explain verses in the Bible:
Literal – Most often the Bible says what it means and means what it says. When we interpret the Bible literally we are understanding the words in their most usual or normal sense.
Grammatical – The Bible uses different tools of grammar to communicate truth to us. God’s Word uses poetry, metaphors, similes, and more to help us receive and understand truth.
Context – When we think about context we look at what is happening around a verse, or even in books written at the same time (Passage Context). It’s also important to try to understand what something meant when it was written and not just what it means to us today (Historical Context).
Who and What Can Help Me Understand?
The Holy Spirit: Our greatest help to understanding the Bible is God. We should always pray and ask God for His help. It makes sense to speak to the Author about what He has written, right?
Other Christians: We can also get help by asking Christian Parents, your Pastor, or Sunday School Teachers to help you.
Books: There are lots of different kinds of books that can help. Some special ones to look for are dictionaries, concordances, and commentaries.
The Big Picture
There are two main sections in the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Within each are different kinds of books, such as historical, poetry, law, and prophecies. Having a basic idea about which section we are reading, the style, and its purpose will be a help.
The Old Testament
The 39 books in the Old Testament tells the story of how everything started, why we are here, and where we are going. We can divide it into two very broad parts.
Part 1—Genesis 1-11: The first 11 chapters tell the story of creation, how sin, death and suffering started, they describe the world-wide flood, and the beginning of languages and nations at Babel. It covers about 2000 years.
Part 2—Genesis 12-Malachi: The rest of the Old Testament tells the story of how God chose a man called Abraham and promised to save the world through one very special descendent. Abraham’s family grew large, and eventually it grew to become the nation we call Israel.
The New Testament
The 27 books of the New Testament reveal the descendent of Abraham who would save sinners—Jesus Christ! We can divide it into 3 sections:
- The Good News of Jesus Christ (Matthew-John),
- The Good News announced (Acts)
- The Good News explained (Romans-Revelation).
The more you read, the more you’ll understand. Sometimes you’ll need to set a question aside and just keep reading. Usually, before too long, you’ll find the answer to whatever your question may have been. Consistency and faithfulness are keys to understanding God’s Word! Don’t expect to know everything at once or to understand everything on the first reading, but keep reading and in time you’ll understand more and more.